Road & Rail

Road trip guide: The Gibb River Road

Sponsored by Tourism Western Australia

If your clients are craving adventure, tell them to jump in their cars and head west.

Western Australia is home to epic four-wheel-drive adventures through one of the last true wilderness areas on earth: Gibb River Road.

Originally built for droving cattle to Wyndham or Derby, the epic 660-kilometre route explores the Kimberley’s magnificent gorges, authentic outback cattle stations, ancient Aboriginal culture and captivating pioneering history.

Day one: Broome

It’s a short hop by air from Perth to Broome, with flights departing daily and arriving within two and a half hours. You can also fly direct from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.

On arrival, clients can hire a four-wheel drive and prepare themselves for an epic outback adventure.

It’s worth spending a day or two exploring the tropical pearling town of Broome, soaking up the melting pot of cultures and enjoying the beauty of Broome’s famous Cable Beach.

Day two: Broome to Derby (220km)

Derby is an easy two-hour drive on sealed road from Broome, offering some unique insights into the region’s convict and colonial eras at the Boab Prison Tree and Wharfinger’s House Museum.

The Royal Flying Doctor Base and Kimberley School of the Air offer a glimpse of modern life on the edge of a vast outback wilderness.

At sunset, clients can head to the jetty to witness some of the largest tidal movements in the southern hemisphere before choosing from local station stays, or hotel, motel, bed and breakfast and camping options.

Tell them to stay an extra night and hop on a half-day scenic flight to see the spectacular Horizontal Waterfalls and the 1,000 islands and islets of the Buccaneer Archipelago.

Day three: Derby to Windjana Gorge National Park (157km)

The first 70 kilometres of the Gibb are sealed, then it’s four-wheel driving all the way until Kununurra.

First up, your clients can check out an ancient reef system formed around 350 million years ago at Windjana Gorge National Park in the Napier and soak up some culture on the way with a visit to the Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Cultural Centre.

Once they reach the national park, they can explore the 3.5-kilometre walk trail with 100-metre walls revealing fossils of primeval lifeforms and pools that support an abundance of wildlife.

Then, clients can follow the road south to nearby Tunnel Creek National Park, WA’s oldest cave system, and take a torch-lit walk through the 750-metre tunnel and its subterranean world of bats and freshwater crocodiles before spending the night at the Windjana Gorge campsite.

Day four: Windjana Gorge National Park to Bell Gorge (158km)

The next morning, clients can head into the Kimberly Highlands at Lennard Gorge for a morning walk or swim before heading to Bell Gorge, one of the Kimberley’s most spectacular attractions with a cascading 100-metre waterfall, swimming pools and breathtaking cliff-top views.

Mount Hart Homestead is a good base to explore nearby Matthew Gorge and the pocket of rainforest below Mt Matthew is a great spot for birdwatching.

Day five: Bell Gorge to Manning Gorge (126km)

From Bell Gorge, they can take a short drive to Galvans Gorge for a bushwalk to spectacular granite outcrops and lily-filled waterways.

Your clients will have to stop at Mount Barnett Roadhouse to pay park entry and camping fees before following the markers from the campground to Manning Gorge, where they can explore the falls and Aboriginal rock art and take a refreshing swim in the tranquil pools.

Alternatively, 34 kilometres from Bell Gorge is a turn off onto the 82-kilometre drive to Mornington Wilderness Camp, where they can enjoy a range of guided tours and self-guided activities amongst the spectacular gorges and tropical savannah, including birdwatching and canoeing Dimond Gorge.

Day six: Manning Gorge to Drysdale River Station (165km)

A short detour off Gibb River Road along Kalumburu Road is the biodiverse wilderness of Mitchell River National Park, where your clients can take an early morning swim stop at the Gibb River crossing before continuing on to Drysdale River Station.

The station is surrounded by rainforests and open woodlands which can be explored on foot, plus riverbanks for fishing fanatics and the choice of cabin-style accommodation or camping sites in the station grounds.

Day seven: Drysdale River Station

A scenic flight over the coastal canyons of the Prince Regent River is a must for anyone travelling in the area.

It is home to more than half of the Kimberley’s native mammal and bird species and some of Australia’s most dramatic coastal gorges and cascading waterfalls.

Day eight: Drysdale River Station to Home Valley Station (239km)

The next destination, back on Gibb River Road, is Home Valley Station, where clients can hit the walk trails and start exploring the magnificent landscapes of this three-million-acre outback oasis nestled at the foot of the spectacular Cockburn Range.

Here, they can join enjoy a sundowner like no other, watching the light play on the mighty Cockburn Ranges as they turn from brilliant reds to deep purples.

Powered and non-powered camping sites are available, with access to showers, toilets, gas barbecues and a bar serving drinks and meals.

The station is closed for the 2021 season but is expected to reopen for 2022.

Day nine: Home Valley Station

At Home Valley Station, clients can take in the striking views of the Cockburn Range, venture through ancient gorges and ranges to plunge pools, or chase barramundi in one of Australia’s top fishing spots: the Pentecost River.

Day 10: Home Valley Station to El Questro (106km)

On their way to the last station stay, your clients can stop at Durack River crossing, fish for barramundi at Jack’s Waterhole or take in the expansive views of the Cockburn Ranges and Pentecost River.

Set on one million acres, El Questro extends deep into the unexplored heart of the Kimberley with accommodation varying from camping and safari tent accommodation to self-contained cabins and the five-star homestead.

The park has a basic provisions store and a steakhouse restaurant.

Day 11: El Questro 

While at El Questro, clients can take a relaxing soak in the thermal pools at Zebedee Springs – just a short walk through the pre-historic forest of Livistona and pandanus palms – and discover the region’s ancient Windjana Aboriginal rock art or join local guides on a hike to Emma Gorge.

Other highlights include four-wheel drive safaris to the spectacular Cockburn Ranges and afternoon cruises along Chamberlain Gorge.

Day 12: El Questro to Kununurra (103km)

Along the final stretch of Gibb River Road is east Kimberley hub of Kununurra, where your clients can extend their adventure to view two of the Kimberly’s most extraordinary sights: Lake Argyle and the Bungle Bungle Range.

An afternoon cruise is the best way to explore the big waters and little islands of Lake Argyle – the largest man-made lake in the southern hemisphere.

Day 13: Kununurra

Tell your clients to set aside a day to visit one of the world’s most curious landforms: the Bungle Bungle Range at World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park.

A helicopter flight will give them the best views of the range and enough time to touch down and explore this ancient marvel on foot.

Day 14: Kununurra

Before returning to Perth, clients can browse Kununurra’s Aboriginal art galleries, jewellers and sandalwood crafts, and enjoy lunch at a café, pub or the local distillery.

Or venture a little further out to Mirima National Park (often referred to as the mini Bungle Bungle Range), along with 600-million-year-old Zebra Rock, Kelly’s Knob Lookout (the top spot for sunsets) and the local’s favourite summer swimming hole, Black Rock Falls.

For some handy road trip travel tips, go HERE.

NOTE: Gibb River Road is accessible between May and October only, and roads are often closed due to flooding between September and May (the wet season). An adventure such as this requires drivers to take necessary precautions to ensure a safe journey, and some experience of driving on unsealed roads is recommended.


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